In the past 20 years, there have been only two Warhammer 40k-based FPS: Fire Warrior and Space Hulk: Deathwing. Want to know what these games have in common? They’re bad (Deathwing to a lesser extent). Warhammer 40k is a hard universe to get right, with endless possible settings, mountains of detail, and a fan base who aren’t strangers to getting the shaft. So how does Necromunda: Hired Gun stand up in a sea of first person shooters, and does it do Warhammer 40k proud?
Necromunda: Hired Gun is an fast-paced, indie FPS from StreumOn Studio, creators of the janky-but-fun E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy and the aforementioned Space Hulk: Deathwing. You’re a bounty hunter on the hiveworld of Necromunda, one of the thousands of massive industrial planets whose factories are the lifeblood of the Imperium. It’s full of gangs, psykers, xeno-worshipping cults, and mutants of every size and number of limbs, and you’re in the thick of it. Thankfully, you’ve also got an arsenal of powerful weapons, bionic augmentations, and one very good boy to help you during the hunt.
Hired Gun’s story isn’t very important, but it serves as a suitable framework. It starts with a hunt gone wrong and escalates into a full on war between the various gangs in Necromunda’s underhive. It’s serviceable, albeit hard to follow, but the weird audio mixing means it’s sometimes impossible to understand what the characters are saying, forcing you to rely on subtitles to even know what’s going on. (A patch has been released on Steam which fixed this issue, and should be out on console soon).
What is important is the art direction and aesthetic, and StreumOn have shown they know and love Warhammer 40k. The huge, detailed levels, ranging from ruined temples and massive trains, to dilapidated cities swimming in toxic runoff and fighting pits, and the little things, like a mutation self-report scale detailing why your extra pseudopods might be a cause for alarm, or a factory recall notice apologizing for lasguns being sent to the front when they were intended for “personal use”, just scream 40k, without feeling like it’s retreading what other games have done. You aren’t a glorious, trans-human Space Marine charging into combat on some massive battlefield; you’re a hired gun, hunting scum in society’s underbelly.
The real star here is the combat, and Hired Gun is a fast, frantic power fantasy. You can dash, slide, double jump, wall-run, and use a grappling hook, and combining these mechanics allows you to quickly traverse Necromunda: Hired Gun’s massive, sprawling levels. You’re able to equip up to four weapons from an authentic 40k arsenal, including Bolters, Plasma pistols, Lasguns, and Stub Cannons, among others, all of which can be upgraded and customized to fit your playstyle. These are chunky, powerful weapons that can blow enemies into little pieces, with sounds and animations of the same caliber, and in case you were wondering, they did the Bolter right (for those unaware, Bolters fire a .75 caliber rocket-propelled, explosive round that can blow a normal person in half with one shot). My only issue with the weapons is that you can only equip two large weapons (Bolters, shotguns, lasguns) at a time, with the other slots reserved for pistol-sized weapons like Stubguns and sawn-off shotguns, which feels limiting.
You also have a wide variety of bionic augments at your disposal. These include passive augments, like autosanguine, which allows you to heal by dealing damage (with the healing effect growing stronger the closer you are to an enemy) and active augments, like slowing down time with Heightened Senses, using Blast to fire beams of energy from your hand that disintegrate foes, or teleporting to an enemy and creating a massive explosion with Crush.
Active augments each have a separate cooldown, meaning you can combine them and chain them together, creating moments of complete insanity. Necromunda: Hired Gun’s tight, responsive movement, combined with the devastating power you wield, makes you feel like a hyper-agile guided missile, tearing through enemies with hails of bullets, explosives, and white-hot plasma. In fact, Necromunda: Hired Gun has drawn comparison to the Doom reboots, and in keeping with that there’s a takedown mechanic, similar to the glory kills from Doom 2016 or Doom Eternal. These will instantly kill lower enemies in some grisly fashion, as well as rewarding you with health. They’re kind of glitchy and hard to follow sometimes, but they’re still a welcome addition.
You also have access to your aforementioned cyber-mastiff. Your mastiff can be called with the press of a button–and a squeaky toy–and will highlight and attack enemies. Your dog functions more like an additional ability rather than a constant companion, which is a bit of a letdown considering how much the pup was featured in promotional material, but it’s still fun seeing the disturbing, body horror-esque changes that occur to your Mastiff when you upgrade him.
During a mission you can acquire loot, like new weapons, trinkets, and new armor. You have one empty slot which can use to equip any weapon you find during a mission, but the rest of it just gets put into your inventory. Only after you’ve beaten a mission can you look at the stats of the loot you’ve acquired, and while some may think this is bad design – since you don’t really know what you’re picking up – I like it. Necromunda: Hired Gun isn’t a looter shooter, and I’m glad I don’t have to mess around with inventory management when I should be killing Genestealers.
After a mission you return to Martyr’s End, a hub area where you can customize your guns or buy new ones, upgrade your augments and mastiff (you can also pet your mastiff and feed him in Martyr’s End) and choose your next mission. Besides campaign missions, there are also side missions to undertake, with various objectives like poisoning air supplies, destroying ammunition caches, taking out high-priority bounties, etc. These take place in sections from the campaign, and are separated between B, A, and S missions, with S paying the most. These provide a good amount of replay value, although I wish some of the provided sections were a bit bigger.
While there are a lot of positives to Necromunda: Hired Gun, unfortunately performance wise, it is janky as hell. In a given play session it’ll crash at least five times, although the game saves frequently enough that I’ve never lost any progress, which is surprising and greatly appreciated. Takedowns can make you warp through walls, guns can get glitched into your hand and stay there while you use other weapons, and the console version can suffer from bad stuttering when you look left and right (although this has seemingly subsided for me, though I don’t know why). Patches are on their way, however, so it may not be like this for long.
Saying this is the best Warhammer 40k FPS ever made might not sound like much, considering the negative reception the other two received; but I really, really like Necromunda: Hired Gun. It’s crazy, chaotic, and an absolute power trip, and it doesn’t try to be anything else other than that. Flying across an acid lake at Mach five while I paint the floor red with the poor bastards beneath me, blowing a guy into pieces with my Boltgun in an enclosed space and seeing pieces of intestine hanging from the ceiling, and using Crush to teleport into a crowd and seeing viscera spray everywhere from the resulting explosion just feels *so* good. Is this game janky? Yes. Does it crash a lot? Yes; but when it works it’s one of my favorite shooters in recent memory, and most importantly, it does the world and lore of 40k justice. It knows what you want and it makes no qualms about giving it to you.
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